You seem very comfortable casting and working with older people who have featured frequently throughout your videos. Have you worked with Kenneth Welsh (who has grown a bit older than his Twin Peaks days) before and what was behind your decision to use him?
When I showed the script to Devon of Majical Cloudz, I mentioned to him we would need to find an older man to play the lead. He said he would ask his dad. I forgot his father was Kenneth Welsh, a famous actor. It was kind of a beautiful thing to witness Ken’s labour of love for his son – we shot immediately after Christmas in -20c weather and Ken had to do things like crawl in cotton overalls on train tracks in the middle of the night.
Your narratives are always emotionally resonant without spelling out the story literally but we’d love to hear your interpretation of Childhood’s End. Did the story evolve as your response to the lyrics?
The story is loosely based on the artist Henry Darger, who worked as janitor until his death. His work was discovered by his landlord. I was a visual artist for years, working strenuous minimal wage jobs, and making my art into the night. I had been thinking about the isolation and paranoia that follows you when you are in this routine, and not technically contributing anything to the world, while others around you are pursuing “real” careers.
I think the idea to use Darger as a character was first spurred by a lyric in another Majical Cloudz song, “If this is the last song I sing, I’m so glad that I sung it”. I was listening to it while driving at night in the desert while working on the Doldrums video. It moved me because I realized being an artist means fulfillment through making the art itself.
Technically you experiment and change with each video. What were the new considerations to take on board shooting in b&w?
I still shoot b&w stills photography, and was interested in the Film Noir genre themes, which generally deal with paranoia and a more psychological approach to storytelling. The emotional response to stripping away colour to only light and shadows, there is so much that can be achieved using very low-key lighting. I think those limitations free you up, and it would be fun to experiment within those confines.
You collaborated with your friend Claire Boucher on her Grimes Project Oblivion which became a much-loved video of last year and more recently with BRTHR on the remix of Doldrums She is the Wave (a personal favourite). Are there any projects coming up where you also plan to share the creative process?
Claire (Grimes), Devon (Majical Cloudz), and Airick (Doldrums) are all from the same community of friends living in Montreal. Making videos for them happened organically, as an extension of our friendship. I sent BRTHR the finished video that I made for Doldrums to make a re-mix, because I have a huge respect for their work and we’ve become friends since.
It’s easier to work with friends, and gratifying when it’s making art for music you love. I just finished shooting a music video for Solange, who I didn’t know before until now. She approached me to write a treatment for a video with a predetermined concept and a location, which was a bit different, but we hammered it out over the phone and during the prep and made it happen. It should be coming out next month.